Now I am a DS9 fan. I have loved the depiction of a less than ideal look at the Federation as oppsosed to the utopia of Earth portrayed to be in the 24th century.
Gene had a vision that humanity would get past all its petty bickering, war, famine, money etc, but in truth, it was never really shown that way. Kirk was always shouting “do it my way or die” to any alien he meets, Picard was far more diplomatic, but anytime another officer either from another ship or a starbase boards the Enterprise, there is always hostility between them. Shouldn’t they all be “one big happy fleet”?
So DS9 showed the Federation in a more realistic light, that although they have thier ideals, it’s not always possible to live by them, enter Section 31, Michael Eddington, The Maquis, Admiral Leyton etc, all trying to protect the Federation from the enemy, although with questionable motives.
Nothing shows this moral struggle better than the DS9 episode “In The Pale Moonlight”, the episode where Sisko is forced to question, and act against the morals of both himself and the Federation for the good of the Alpha Quadrant…
“Captain’s Personal Log: Stardate 5-1-7… (unsure) 5-1-7… 4? Computer – what day is it? (COMPUTER VOICE) Stardate 51721.3. It’s only been two weeks… I need to talk about this. I have to justify what’s happened… what I’ve done… at least to myself. I can’t talk to anyone else… not even to Dax. Maybe if I just lay it all out in my log, it’ll finally make sense… I can see where it all went wrong… where I went wrong… I suppose it started two weeks ago while I was posting the weekly casualty list in the wardroom… every Friday morning, for the past three months, I’ve posted the official list of Starfleet personnel killed, wounded or missing in the war. It’s become something of a grim ritual around here. Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t find the name of a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance on that damned list… I’ve grown to hate Fridays.”
On this Friday, Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax discovers that a longtime friend, Leslie Wong, was lost with all hands on board the USS Cairo. Presumably, the Cairo was ambushed by a Dominion patrol that passed through Romulan space — a common occurrence, because the Romulans have a non-aggression pact with the Dominion. Dr. Bashir argues that bringing the Romulans into the war would be advantageous to the Federation war effort. Dax, however, replies that the Romulans are in a perfect position and have no reason to side with anyone.
As Sisko’s log continues…
“That was the moment I made the decision. It was like I had stepped through a door and locked it behind me. I was going to bring the Romulans into the war.”
Initially, this objective seems unattainable, as staying neutral is clearly in the Romulans’ best interests. When Dax plays the Romulan devil’s advocate in a mock debate, Sisko determines how to get them into the war on their side. It becomes evident that he needs “solid proof” to convince the Romulans that the Dominion is planning on conquering them after they are done with the Federation Alliance.
Sisko contacts Elim Garak because of his skills at retrieving highly classified and guarded information (namely, secret Dominion war plans that Sisko can employ in maneuvering the Romulan government). With apparent reluctance, Garak agrees — after noting that it would involve the expenditure of all his resources on Cardassia Prime and may well turn out to be an altogether messy and bloody business. Sisko, unfazed, is prepared to do anything to accomplish his objective.
As his log continues…
“My father used to say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I laid the first stone right there. I’d committed myself. I’d pay any price, go to any lengths, because my cause was righteous. My… intentions were good. In the beginning, that seemed like enough.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that bad news invariably comes in the middle of the night.”
That night, Sisko learns that the Dominion has conquered Betazed in a matter of hours, placing it in a strategic position to hit several key worlds (including Alpha Centauri, Andor, Tellar Prime, and Vulcan). This development makes Sisko even more determined, and after three days’ time he inquires of Garak concerning his progress. Garak claims to have spoken with several Cardassian operatives willing to assist in the mission, but they have suddenly been killed within a day of communicating with him. Garak bids the Captain not to give up and (with an almost unnerving enthusiasm) proposes that, rather than continuing their clandestine hunt for evidence, they go about personally manufacturing it.
“Maybe I should have put a stop to it right there. Maybe I should have said, “Thank you very much for your input, Mister Garak, I will take your suggestion under advisement,” and then gone back to my office and forgotten the whole thing. But I didn’t. Because in my heart, I knew what he was saying made sense.”
Garak proposes that Sisko invite Senator Vreenak to Deep Space 9, since the senator will be passing by in a few days. Vreenak negotiated the Romulan nonaggression pact with the Dominion and is an outspoken supporter of it; he is also known for his low opinion of the Federation. If Sisko can persuade him to join the war, Garak says, the whole Romulan Senate will follow. The two formulate a plan to show him a fabricated recording of a secret, high-level Dominion meeting, in which the Dominion discusses their plan to conquer the Romulans. To ensure that Vreenak believes it, they will use a genuine Cardassian optolythic data rod, as well as a good cover story about how Starfleet obtained it. Sisko points that he’ll need approval from Starfleet, but Garak believes that with the takeover of Betazed they should be more than willing to approve the plan, which they do.
The first thing that Sisko needs to do is to get Grathon Tolar, an expert in holographic forgery, released from a Klingon prison. Gowron pardons him, and Sisko tells Tolar that the conditions of his release are to create a holographic program for him. Tolar realizes the nature of the assignment when he learns Garak is involved, but agrees, as the alternative is to face execution by the Klingons.
As Sisko’s log continues…
“Why I didn’t listen to the voice in the back of my mind telling me not to believe a word he said, I’ll never know… But it didn’t take long for me to come face to face with the fact that I’d made a mistake.”
Sisko receives a communication from Odo over the comm stating that Tolar just tried to kill Quark.
Apparently Tolar got drunk at Quark’s and, in the ensuing bar fight, stabbed Quark. Odo cannot release Tolar unless Quark decides not to press charges. Sisko, who wants no record of Tolar being on the station, speaks to Quark who agrees not to press charges in exchange for repayment in regards to his lost profits and damaged clothes and also that some illegal merchandise is allowed to slip past security. Sisko, between a rock and a hard place, approves and Quark is happy not just because of his economic gain but also because this reaffirms Quark’s faith in the 98th Rule of Acquisition: “Every man has his price.”
Sisko’s log continues…
“That was my first moment of real doubt, when I started to wonder if the whole thing was a mistake. So I went back to my office. And there was a new casualty list waiting for me. People are dying out there every day! Entire worlds are struggling for their freedom! And here I am worrying about the finer points of morality! No, I had to keep my eye on the ball! Winning the war, stopping the bloodshed, those were the priorities! So I pushed on. And every time another doubt appeared before me, I just found another way to shove it aside.”
The next step in the plan is to obtain a genuine Cardassian data rod. After persuading Tolar with a threat to stay in his quarters Garak, by some “minor miracle,” finds a seller; unfortunately, the price is quite high: 200 liters of biomimetic gel, a dangerous and controlled substance. Sisko at first rejects the price outright, but Garak tells him that finding another will be impossible. Sisko then decides to drop the whole plan, but after a few seconds he relents but tells Garak that 200 liters is impossible, but Garak is sure he can negotiate it down.
Later Doctor Bashir is asked to prepare the gel, however the Doctor refuses and tells Sisko that he isn’t willing to do since he’s doesn’t know where it’ll be going. Sisko gives Bashir short shrift and makes it a direct order. Bashir demands the order in writing, which Sisko immediately produces. Furious, but with no recourse, Bashir agrees to prepare the gel but informs Captain Sisko that he intends to note the incident in his log and will be filing a grievance with Starfleet Medical. Sisko orders the gel to be ready at the end of the day and dismisses him.
Sisko, Garak, and Tolar obtain the rod and begin preparing a convincing recording in which Weyoun and Damar plan the invasion of Romulus, making sure to have the two squabble with each other and appear as “real” as possible. The program is recorded onto the rod, and the forgery is complete. To ensure that the fake will pass (though it has already been encoded on the single-use data rod), Sisko threatens Tolar with an unpleasant execution at the hands of Gowron if the forgery is flawed. Tolar is further unnerved when Garak says he will stop by his quarters (“to say hello”).
As Sisko’s log continues…
“Maybe… I was under more pressure than I realized. Maybe it really was starting to get to me, but I was off the hook. Starfleet Command had given the plan their blessing and I thought that would make things easier. But I was the one who had to make it happen. I was the one who had to look Senator Vreenak in the eye and convince him that a lie… was the truth.”
Sisko at this point is getting nervous, as Senator Vreenak comes to the station in a cloaked Romulan shuttle (with no-one other than Sisko and Garak aware that he’s there). Before Sisko greets Vreenak, Garak tells him he plans to covertly inspect the Senator’s ship (for anything “useful”), and leaves. Vreenak egotistically dresses down Sisko when the two meet.
Vreenak and Sisko discuss the fate of their respective worlds over a bottle of kali-fal, at which point Sisko tells Vreenak that he has learned the Dominion is planning a surprise attack on the Romulans. Vreenak, naturally, demands proof, and Sisko presents his forgery. Vreenak asks to inspect the data rod and, in typical Romulan fashion, takes his time, during which Sisko is understandably anxious.
As his log continues…
“So all I could do was wait… and see how masterful Tolar’s forgery really was. So I waited…tried to catch up on my paperwork, but I find it very difficult to focus on criminal activity reports, cargo manifests… So I went back to pacing, staring out of the window. I’m not an impatient man, I’m not one to agonize over decisions once they’re made. I got that from my father. He always says, “Worry and doubt are the greatest enemies of a great chef. The soufflé will either rise or it won’t – there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, so you might as well just sit back and wait and see what happens.” But this time the cost of failure was so high, I found it difficult to take his advice. If Vreenak discovered that the data rod was a forgery, if he realized that we were trying to trick them into the war it could push the Romulans even farther into the enemy camp. They could start to openly help the Dominion. If worst came to worst they could actually join the war against us. I had the distinct feeling that victory or defeat would be decided in the next few minutes.”
Sisko attempts, in vain, to calm himself, until Vreenak furiously confronts him, having figured out the rod is a forgery.
“So it all blew up in my face. All the lies and the compromises, the inner doubts and the rationalizations – all for nothing. Vreenak was furious. I can’t say I blamed him; I’d have reacted the same way. After telling me in no uncertain terms that he intended to expose this “vile deception” to the entire Alpha Quadrant, he got back in his shuttle and headed home. There didn’t seem to be anything more to do… so I went back to work. Two days later we got the news.”
Sisko, Dax, and Bashir are reviewing a new casualty list when Worf comes in and reports that Vreenak’s shuttle has exploded, killing the senator. When he adds that the Tal Shiar believe the Dominion is responsible, Dax, recalling their previous conversation, gives Sisko a knowing smile. Worf also points out that the events unfolding is a real game-changer: the death of Vreenak, who was on a diplomatic mission in Dominion space, could bring the Romulans into the war. Realizing what’s really happened, Sisko excuses himself. After walking through the promenade brimming with fury, he walks into Garak’s shop and backhands the tailor as a greeting. Sisko accuses him of killing Vreenak, which Garak immediately admits. Sisko accuses him of never believing the rod would pass inspection and only wanted to lure Vreenak to the station to plant a bomb on his shuttle.
Garak states that while he did have hope that the rod would pass Vreenak’s inspection, he realized that it was possible, even probable, that it would not. Garak had planted a bomb on the Romulan shuttle, and made its destruction look like Dominion sabotage. To the Tal Shiar it will appear that the Dominion destroyed the shuttle. And in the wreckage they will find a badly damaged data rod containing the evidence that the Dominion was going to betray the Romulans, the damage to the rod masking the imperfections in the forgery. It will appear that Vreenak was on his way to expose the Dominion before being blown up. As for Tolar, the forger, Garak describes him as a “casualty of war”, implying that Garak eliminated him.
Sisko is furious and punches Garak again, but Garak reminds the Captain that this is why he came to him for help in the first place… because he knew that Garak was willing do what he couldn’t, no matter how distasteful and illegal. The most important thing is that Sisko is going to get exactly what he wants since, in light of the damning ‘evidence’, against the Dominion the Romulans will enter the war against the Dominion. Garak tells Sisko he has likely saved the Alpha Quadrant, having had to sacrifice only a criminal, an unsympathetic senator, and perhaps his self respect in the process. Garak calls that “a bargain.”
Sisko’s log continues…
“At oh-eight-hundred hours, station time… the Romulan Empire formally declared war against the Dominion. They’ve already struck fifteen bases along the Cardassian border. So, this is a huge victory for the good guys! This may even be the turning point of the entire war! There’s even a “Welcome to the Fight” party tonight in the wardroom!… So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover up the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But most damning of all… I think I can live with it… And if I had to do it all over again… I would. Garak was right about one thing – a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. So I will learn to live with it…Because I can live with it…I can live with it. Computer – erase that entire personal log.”
According to the 1999 book, Science Fiction of the 20th Century by author Frank M. Robinson, “…’In the Pale Moonlight’–was mentioned by TV Guide as one of the best dramatic shows of the season. In it, Captain Sisko is forced to betray his ideals to save the lives of millions on a galactic scale at the cost of one petty criminal and one ambassador of an unfriendly nation. On the surface, no contest but Brooks played the role with depth and feeling unusual in a science-fiction series.”
According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, this episode is generally considered by both fans and staff as the darkest Star Trek episode ever made, and the one most antithetical to Gene Roddenberry’s initial views of Starfleet, the Federation and 24th century Humanity.
Andrew Robinson nominates this as one of his favorite episodes, after “The Wire”, “Improbable Cause” and “The Die is Cast”. According to Robinson, this episode is about Garak teaching Sisko that “You can’t go to bed with the Devil without having sex.”
In a separate interview, Robinson made a similar point, stating that this episode demonstrated how Deep Space Nine explored more difficult issues than the other Star Trek series. He commented, “Basically it exposes the American innocence, that we want to do these things in the world, but we’re not really willing to take the consequences of our actions, and sometimes we have to do very dirty things, and we have to hurt people, and we pretend that that doesn’t exist, that Americans would never do that. We dealt with issues like that and I don’t think… you know… the other shows really went as far as we did.”